Soft Words Butter No Parsnips ┐
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Soft Words Butter No Parsnips was one of my grandfather’s favourite sayings and it seemed particularly fitting that I should give his book this title.  John Iliffe Poole was always being fobbed off with kind words and pats on the back during his long and dignified fight with the pension authorities, but soft words alone did not allow him to provide food for his wife and young family.

We had a lot of seemingly obscure little sayings in our house – some platitudinous, many irreverent, some downright ridiculous - that probably went back generations.  I expect you’ve heard a lot of them and use them on your children.  As a small child I tried to make sense of my grandmother’s, “a boy picks his wife by ‘er ‘ayd and ‘er ‘eels”, or “it’s a man’s place to arsk and a lady’s to refoos”, or grandad’s,  “it’s no skin off my nose” or “don’t be a gowk”.   

So, I then had the problem of integrating these sayings, the fabric of our family, into the fabric of the book.  I did it like this ….




Sayings in the book

All wind and water like the barber’s cat  •  Cocking a snook  •  As happy as a sand boy  •  Going the whole hog  •  More kicks than halfpence  •  Too close for comfort  •  Taking the rough with the smooth   •   Fighting tooth and nail   •   By the skin of your teeth  •  Getting the wrong end of the stick  •  As near as dammit  •  Like an owl in an ivy bush  •  All at sixes and sevens  •  Don’t know your arse from your elbow  •  Dinna fash yoursel’   •  Worse things happen at sea  •  All quiet on the Western Front   •   Handsome is as handsome does  •  As nice as nine-pence  •  Crying over spilled milk  •  As pleased as Punch  •  Faint heart ne’er won fair lady  •  Throwing in the towel  •  Going cap in hand   •   As cold as charity   •   Flogging a dead horse   •   Living from hand to mouth  •  Mutton dressed up as lamb  •  Time and tide wait for no man  •  Money doesn’t grow on trees  •  Getting your dander up  •  Pulling your horns in  •  Up a gum tree  •
Wiping the slate clean  •  Every Tom Dick and Harry  •  Like a dose of salts  •  Half a loaf is better than no bread at all  •  Cutting off your nose to spite your face  •  Keeping your pecker up  •  Less said, soonest mended   •   The back of beyond   •   A fate worse than death   •   A chip off the old block  •  Putting the cart before the horse  •  A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind man  •  One good turn deserves another   •   As bright as a button   •   Putting two and two together  •  To be tickled pink   •   Like a blue-arsed fly   •   The life of Riley   •   There are plenty more fish in the sea  •  There’s no rest for the wicked  •  Never in a month of Sundays  •  Like a dog with two tails  •  Where there’s a will there’s a way  •  Talking the hind leg off a donkey  •  All the world and his wife  •  ‘Til the cows come home  •  A means to an end  •  A cat’s lick and a promise  •   
When needs must the devil drives  •  The gift of the gab  •  Knocked into a cocked hat  •  Hook, line and sinker  •  On a wing and a prayer
The more I thought about it, the more sayings I remembered, so the following are ones that didn’t make it into the book, but may be still worth quoting! 
A blessing in disguise   •   A fair crack of the whip   •   A flash in the pan   •   A flea in your ear   •   A means to an end  •  A turn up for the books  •  Acting the giddy goat  •  All Greek to me  •  All is not lost  •  All of a dither  •  All over the shop  •  All the tea in China  •  As blind as a bat  •  As bold as brass  •  As clear as a bell  •  As plain as a pikestaff  •  As sound as a bell  •  As sure as eggs are eggs  •  Back to square one  •  Banging your head against a brick wall  •  Batten down the hatches   •   Beating about the bush   •   Being a dab hand   •   Bending over backwards  •
Best bib and tucker  •  Better safe than sorry  •  Biding one’s time  •  Biting off more than you can chew  •  Blow high, blow low  •  Bob’s your uncle  •  Boo to a goose  •  Bow and scrape  •  Buck up your ideas  •  Bundle of nerves  •  Burying your head in the sand  •  Calling a spade a spade  •  Can’t see the wood for the trees  •  Chop and change  •  Credit where credit’s due  •  Cutting the mustard  •  Darken one’s door  •  Don’t count your chickens  •  Don’t give up the ghost  •  Don’t know you from Adam  •  Don’t rock the boat  •  Down but not out  •  Easy come, easy go  •  Eating out of your hand  •  Eating your heart out •  Every trick in the book  •  Everything but the kitchen sink  •  Falling by the wayside  •  Falling on deaf ears  •  Feather in your cap  •  Fits and starts  •   For donkey’s years   •   Get out of bed on the wrong side   • 
Get on like a house on fire   •   Get the bit between your teeth  •  Going hammer and tongs at it  •  Going like the clappers  •  Grin and bear it  •  Having a good innings  •  Having an axe to grind  •  High and dry  •  His bark’s worse than his bite  •  Hitting the nail on the head  •  Hook, line and sinker  •  If you can’t beat them, join them  •  In cahoots  •  In high dudgeon  •  It takes a sprat to catch a mackerel  •  It takes all sorts to make the world   •   It’ll all come out in the wash   •   It’s all grist to the mill  •  It’s as broad as it’s long  •  It’s no skin off my nose  •  Jumping on the bandwagon  •  Keeping open houseKnee-high to a grasshopper  •  Like a bear with a sore head   •   Like a drowned rat   •   Like a red rag to a bull   •   Like nobody’s business   •   Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves   •  Look lively!  •  Making ends meet  •  Moaning Minnie  •  More haste, less speed  •  
Neither here nor there  •  No holds barred  •  Off the beaten track   •   On tenterhooks   •   On the straight and narrow  •  Part and parcel  •  Passing the buck   •   Pay through the nose   •   Penny wise, pound foolish  •  Playing your cards right   •   Poor as a church mouse   •   Put that in your pipe and smoke it   •   Putting the fear of God in you   •    Putting the kibosh on   •   Putting the mockers on  •  Rubbing salt into the wound   •   Salt of the earth   •   Something the cat brought in
Speak as you find  •  Spending money hand over fist   •   Standing on ceremony   •   Stinking to high heaven  •  Straight as a die  •  Taking it on the chin  •  Taking it with a pinch of salt  •  That old chestnut  •  That takes the biscuit  •  That’s the cat’s whiskers  •  The apple of my eye  •  The blind leading the blind  •  The end of your tether  •  The pot calling the kettle black  •  The whole shooting match  •  There’s no accounting for taste  •  Through thick and thin  •  Tied to your apron strings  •  'Tis an ill wind that blows nobody any good  •  Too big for your boots  •  Too clever by half  •  Too many cooks spoil the broth  •  Too many irons in the fire  •  Turning over a new leaf  •  
Uncle Tom Cobley and all   •   Up a gum tree   •   Up with the lark   •   Upsetting the apple cart  •  Waste not, want not  •  Watching you like a hawk  •  Water off a duck’s back  •  Water under the bridge  •  Why have a dog and bark yourself?  •  With your tail between your legs  •  Would give my right arm   •   Wreck of the Hesperus  •  Your bread and butter  •  Your eyes are bigger than your belly  •  Your heart’s in the right place   •   You haven’t got two pennies to rub together  •  
You’ve made your bed now you’ve got to lie in it